Memorial Day classic: 11 cool things about the Tour of Somerville
SOMERVILLE - The Tour of Somerville, the oldest major bicycle race in the nation, takes place Monday, attracting hundreds of racers and thousands of spectators. The day begins at 9 a.m. with a Memorial Day parade, with races starting at 10:45 a.m.
The races, culminating in the 50-mile Kugler-Anderson Memorial, date to 1940. After being suspended for four years from 1943-46 because of World War II, it has been held each Memorial Day. A woman's race was added in 1976.
Here are 11 things to know about the Tour of Somerville:
How it began:
- The race was started by borough bike shop owner Fred "Pop" Kugler, whose son, Furman, a successful professional rider, wanted a race that was closer to home. Furman's prize for winning was a $75 bicycle, an oil painting, a badminton set and a trophy. Since then, prizes have included furniture, appliances, carpeting and even a brand new Chevrolet in 1953 have been given to winners, according to the Tour of Somerville website.
Equality among competitors:
- For the first time in its history, this year's Tour will offer the same $10,000 purses for the top finishers in the men's and women's featured races. "For decades both amateur and professional cyclists from around the world have been able win cash prizes, but many of the best female cyclists have had to settle for less than their male counterparts," said Tour promoter Lisa Werner. "We are proud to announce that, here in Somerville, that changes this year."
- The Tour of Somerville has expanded in recent years to include the Bound Brook Criterium being held 1:30 p.m. on Sunday starting on West Cherry Avenue. The races include a 40-mile professional ride. A race in Raritan, held in past years, is not taking place in 2016. Also new this year is a sprint for boys and girls ages 3 through 12 in Somerville on Monday prior to the Tour of Somerville's women's race. In addition to the racing, there is food, activities for children, live music and entertainment, and the Memorial Day parade at 9 a.m.
Why do they race on Memorial Day?
- Furman Kulger won the race in 1940-41 and his one of his closest friends, Carl Anderson of Clifton, won in 1942 when Furman sat it out. During World War II, Furman was killed in Okinawa and Anderson lost his life in Belgium. Renewed in 1947, the Tour was renamed "The Kugler-Anderson Memorial" and has been held every Memorial Day since.
New Jersey winners:
- A total of 15 New Jersey men have won the the Kugler-Anderson Memorial in 72 runnings. The longest gap between winners being from the Garden State was 23 years (1969-1992). No New Jersey women have won the Mildred Kugler Women's Open.
- The Cromwell Cup, the perpetual tour trophy, was donated in 1940 by the Canadian government and named in honor of James Cromwell, U.S. minister to Canada and Doris Duke's husband.
An international affair:
- Six Canadians, two people from New Zealand, and one each from Holland, Germany and Belgium have won the men's or women's races. The 1955 winner, Patrick Murphy, was a 21-year-old from Ontario, Canada, "who took time off from a honeymoon tour of the states to win the Tour and set a new record of 2 hours, 2 minutes," according to the Tour of Somerville website.
Somerville is a mecca for road racing:
- The Tour of Somerville has been called the "Kentucky Derby of Cycling" and the race was profiled by Sports Illustrated. The borough was once home to the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame, now located in California, and many professional riders still use the race as a warm-up to upcoming events, including the Philadelphia International Cycling Classic taking place June 5.
- The Tour of Somerville benefits several local non-profits, including Jack's Kids and Middle Earth. It is promoted by Arts on Division, a Somerset County resource that promotes all aspects of culture and the arts, for the benefit of Jack's Kids, a Somerville Elks initiative that eases the financial burden to families dealing with a serious childhood illness and disabilities. Jojo Mosca, a senior at Somerville High School, won a contest to design this year's tour T-shirt with a bright yellow design that uses the letter O in the event name to be the wheels of a bike. Proceeds from the sale of the shirt will benefit Middle Earth.
Mildred Kugler Women's Open -
- 4 - Karen Strong of Ontario, Canada (1977, 1979-81)
- 3 - Sue Novara-Reber of Flint, Mi. (1982-84)
- 3 - Tina Pic of Buford, Ga. (2006, 2008-09)
- 3 - Theresa Cliff-Ryan of Philadelphia (2007, 2010-11)
- 2 - Susan Elias of Readfield, Maine (1988-89)
- 2 - Jessica Grieco of Allentown, Pa. (1995-96)
- 2 - Karen Bliss-Livingston of Gainsville, Fla. (1997-98)
- 2 - Laura Van Gilder of Cresco, Pa. (2002, 2005)
Kugler-Anderson Memorial -
- 5 - Jonas Carney of Lebanon (1992, 1998, 2000, 2002-03)
- 2 - Furman Kugler of Somerville (1940-41)
- 2 - Donald Sheldon of Nutley (1947-48)
- 2 - Jackie Simes of Closter (1967, 1969)
- 2 - Ron Skarin of North Hollywood, Calif. (1973-74)
- 2 - Steve Bauer of Canada (1980, 1983)
- 2 - Lucas Haedo of Linden (2008-09)
- Jonas Carney, a Hunterdon County native, won the race five times between 1992 and 2003. His brother, James M. "J'me" Carney, also won in 1994.
- Jonas Carney's career includes two Olympic appearances, in 1992 in Barcelona and in 2000 in Sydney, as well as numerous national track titles, criterium wins and the USPro Criterium Championship. Today, he directs the the Rally Cycling Team.
- James Carney also represented the United States in the 1992 and 2000 Summer Games, placing fifth in the 40 kilometer Points Race, the highest finish by an American in that event. He is also a two-time World Cup champion.
- Karen Strong, who won four times in 1977 and again from 1979 to 1981, competed in the women's road race at the 1984 Summer Olympics. She also has a number of international wins and silver and bronze medals in World Championship competition.
- The three, three-time winners, have all won national and international events. Sue Novara-Reber's final Tour of Somerville win in 1984 was followed up three days later by a win in the Central Park Race in New York City.
- Tina Pic is still competing at age 50. Her racing resume includes earning the most points in the USA Cycling National Racing Calendar in 2002 and 2004-06. Pic was also an alternate for the 2004 Summer Games in Athens.